Straw Bears

To prevent the plague spreading to the adjoining village, the villagers dressed one of their number in straw, then in procession circumambulated the village, finishing up by taking off the straw and burning it outside the village bounds. — A. Rugg-Gunn, “‘Straw-Bear’ at Jena,” Folklore 42:1, 87-89

We are the hollow bears, the stuffed bears dancing together, straw headpiece filled with human. We mimic bears mimicking men, blondeface minstrels led about on leashes. The natural order of things is to die & decay; only through levity can the wintry world once more be set to wrongs. But we are also beasts among men, & our needs are bestial. The villagers shriek at our too-hard hugs, get us drunk & kill us, again & again. Like conjurers we pull ourselves from deathly sleep. We rustle, mumble, shuffle, stumble, tussle, tumble, hustle, crumble. All sickness sticks to our honey-colored fur — & so we must burn. Outside the village bounds we return to the wild, flames playing the way we all did once, before pits & chains.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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